Singing songs, eating snack, playing with toys, and taking naps. Why wouldn’t everyone want a career in early childhood care?
You play around all day and then at 3pm, the kids get picked up, and you go home to do whatever you want. It’s, like, the easiest career ever! Right?
On paper, working as an early childhood care provider may seem like a walk in the park, but in reality it’s hard work and definitely isn’t for everyone.
To help you get a better idea of what it’s like to work in early childhood care, I thought I’d do some myth busting.
Here are five myths about early childhood education and what the truth is behind each.
1. Anyone can do it
Okay, so I didn’t have a degree in Child Development before I started working at a preschool after college and neither did my current manager (who previously worked at a preschool in Japan). But, just because it’s possible to get a job in this field without formal education doesn’t mean that just anyone can do it.
To be completely honest, I recognize the benefits of getting a degree in this field, but I don’t think having that education necessarily makes you good at this job. Working with children, especially young children, takes a more than a diploma.
My mother has always been a preschool teacher. I’ve spent my whole life helping out in her classroom (and eventually became an aide at her school). I also spent a semester working at a special education preschool and another semester at the local preschool by my college.
What I’ve observed is that with or without a degree, some people are just better suited to early childhood care than others. You need to be patient, enthusiastic, committed, and truly love children.
2. They’re all “Miss Honey” types
Yes, you have to be extremely patient to work in early childhood care but that doesn’t mean that everyone who does this job is a “Miss Honey” type. You know, the teachers who only seem to own sundresses, sing everything they say, and probably poop rainbows. Yeah. It’s awesome if you are like that, but it’s totally fine if you’re not.
I mean, I can sing my fair share of children’s songs and probably have more than the normal amount on my iPod, but I am definitely not one of those people. I think I own a total of three sundresses and I live off of about four cups of black coffee a day.
But just because flowers don’t bloom wherever I walk, that doesn’t mean I didn’t care for every single child I looked after. That’s what’s important—caring about the kids and helping them grow.
3. The workday ends at 3pm
Yes, technically most preschools end at around 3pm, but most places have an after-school care program as well. Early childhood care providers (especially those without a degree) do not make that much money. Most likely, you’ll volunteer at least a couple of times a week to work these extra hours. That, or you’ll babysit for certain families after work.
Even if you’re one of the few who doesn’t babysit or work at the after school care program, your day still isn’t really over at 3pm. Remember, even if you’re working with older children (like 1st or 2nd graders), they’re still too young to do projects completely on their own. That means you’ll need to prep for all of those fun, learning activities planned for the next day/week.
At many places you’re also required to vacuum and clean the classroom after the children have left which adds another 20–30 minutes to your day.
My roommate, who is currently a 1st grade teacher, works as a nanny for a family after work and then comes home and has to get projects or activities ready for her class. She has her Master’s degree and is the head teacher of the class, so it’s up to her to plan out all the lessons and prepare all the projects (cutting out certain shapes, sorting out counting materials, etc.). She has a wonderful assistant, but even with that help, preparing for the next day or week often extends her day until 8pm or 9pm.
4. There’s no “real” pressure to teach
Want to be offensive?
This is how to really piss off any early childhood care provider. Tell them that what they do doesn’t really matter or that they’re not really teachers because the children are so young.
This has actually been said to my roommate and let me tell you, those who have uttered those statements have paid for it.
Maybe this isn’t the case with every child care facility, but at least where I worked and where my roommate and manager worked, there was intense pressure to teach. These kids were not just passing the time, they were prepping for the next stage of schooling.
Back home, many of the parents want their children to attend certain schools. Yes, the children have to test to get into kindergarten—and it’s competitive. I know at my roommate’s school she has to make sure that all of the material is covered by their specific curriculum guidelines.
There is definitely a pressure to teach because of outside forces. BUT, if you’re really right for this job, there should also be an inward pressure because there’s so much that these kids can be learning.
5. They only have to interact with children
Children are exhausting, but they’re also so much fun and totally adorable. Kids do indeed say the darndest things and they’re great reminders that our world is amazing. I actually wish more of my days as a preschool teacher had been spent just with the children.
But, here’s the thing—you won’t just be hanging out with kids all day.
You’ll also be interacting with other adults: teachers, parents, supervisors, nannies. And you’re going to have disagreements.
Whether it’s from the pressure to make sure the kids are getting into the right elementary schools or just because everyone has their own disciplinary styles, you’ll often have to deal with unhappy adults.
There is so much more that goes into early childhood care than just hanging out with children. It can still be a lot of fun, but it’s definitely work. Before considering a career in this field, make sure you understand everything that goes along with it. Don’t fall for the five myths of early childhood care.
Homework time! If you like children and are considering a job in this field, make sure that you either volunteer or work part-time at different childcare facilities. Every school, program, or facility is different, so it’s important to learn the styles of the place you’re going to work. Also, even if you really do love kids, you might not enjoy working in a classroom setting. Nannying for one family could be better option. Working as a volunteer will help you figure this out before you’re stuck with a contract at a place that drives you crazy!